Teen Talk with Renée: Let me catch my breath!

Check out this letter from your Teen Services Librarian Renée! This week she is writing about using mindfulness to over come start of school year stress!

It’s been a long time since I was a teenager, but I can still recall that anxiousness that would take hold at the end of summer break. The worry and excitement over the new school year, like -What classes will I have and will I have friends in my classes? – to social anxieties like – Should I get a perm and is this new look a mistake (it was the 80’s, we all made questionable hair style choices!)? Throw in concern over what I thought others might think, and I was a mess. I would lay awake at night with worry and when I finally did fall asleep, I would have nightmares of not finding my locker or missing the bell. I may have been over thinking a lot of things, but I know I wasn’t alone and for a lot of teens, the start of a new school year can bring lots of mixed feelings.

My teenage years, along with my perm, are just a faded memory, but I recognize the same nervousness/excitement in my kids come every August. This year however, nervousness has a whole new dimension and excitement has been replaced with concern, anxiety, annoyance, and even anger. We have emotions all over the place and they change moment to moment. Maybe you find your self in the same situation. Just know that whatever you are feeling – worry, sadness, anger – your feelings have value and are normal! Over the next few weeks, I would like to give you some strategies to help you with this emotional roller coaster ride. Today’s topic: Mindfulness.

According to Wikipedia, Mindfulness is the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment. But what the heck does that mean and how is it attained?!

I like to think of mindfulness as what is right in front of me, both physically and emotionally at that point in time. Physically might be an issue with my body – am I tired, am I hungry, do I need fresh air. If I can recognize what is wrong with me physically in the moment, I can address what I need to feel better. Emotionally are the feelings I am having at that moment – am I nervous about school, am I worried about my classes, am I annoyed at my situation. Being mindful of my feelings helps me to see more clearly what my problem is and possibly find either a solution or a way to cope with my problem. If you are like, WOW, that seems as easy as Quantum Field Theory, you are not alone. Mindfulness is tricky.

What makes mindfulness hard is our mind! Crazy right?! Because we are thoughtful beings, our minds are constantly full of thoughts. Some of our thoughts are helpful, but some are not and possibly harmful. Mindfulness is a practice of removing all the extra noise in our heads so we can actually hear what we need to hear at that moment, leaving out the negative thoughts we might assign to our feelings, or self judgment. Worry that my new hairstyle is lame is a judgment, and I need to ignore that when I am trying to be mindful.

There are many techniques that can help you to gain mindfulness–really, anything that helps you clear you mind. Meditation and yoga are often used for practicing mindfulness, but if bending yourself into a pretzel or scented candles are not your thing, don’t stress! I use running as a way to clear my mind and focus on the moment. Some like to take a walk, while others like to listen to soothing music or visualize their happy place. There is no right or wrong to mindfulness (unless you are using a chainsaw–and then only be mindful to the chainsaw).

Now friends, I think you are ready for my mindfulness quiz!

Which of the following items should you NOT think about when trying to practice mindfulness?

Which of the following activities should you NOT engage in when trying to practice mindfulness?

Answers will be in next week’s blog!

Until then, Here are some awesome reads on mindfulness: This Moment Is Your Life, by Mariam Gates and Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More, by Mallika Chopra. Now take a deep breathe and open your mind!

All the best,

-Renée

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